Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Fair Head

Ireland - land of Guinness, shamrocks, leprechauns and superb sandbag rock climbs. This was my second visit to Fair Head so I was knew what I was getting myself into – a seriously impressive crag about 5 km long, with climbs ranging from one to three pitches, mostly up really impressive features.

Tony Stone was keen on Wall of Prey (E5 6b) as a warm up route, straight out of the car! and I got the short straw of attempting to second him up this (being 2E grades harder than my best lead ever) This turned out to be not too bad as the only really hard bit was through a wee roof, a rest and some French free (Frigged!) moves got me through the worst of it and back onto ground that I could actually climb. The belay “ledge” is in a superb position out in space above the roof. Tony led the next pitch, although it was “only” 5c we didn’t know if it was E1 5c or E4 5c. Seconding it was a joy, a really nice pitch up a ragged crack come groove line with repeated mantle moves on slopey ledges. I kind of wished I had led it, but would probably have bricked myself and faffed, plus Tony was cold and I had had the hot aches on the crux of pitch one.

Tony Just after the crux on Wall of Prey

After a spot of lunch in the sun it was now my choice of route and I opted for Hell’s Kitchen – a three star HVS. The deal was I would lead both pitches as I had seconded Tony on the last two. Brilliant route, the kind of climbing I really enjoy, with pitch one succumbing to some old school shoulder scuming and technical bridgery. Pitch two is a belter with more bridging and some smearing and crimping through a blanker section. The crux is very finely placed (i.e. right at the top !). We both reckoned this would get E1 5a **** if it was in the Scottish mountains (or even easy 5b). N.B. My enjoyment of this route was in no way reduced by Tony seconding it in trainers – GIT !

The crux pitch of Hells Kitchen - Cheers Tony for the photo

I was dreading Tony’s choice of route which turned out to be Primal Scream (E6 6b) – I politely declined to second this. I may have used the F word followed by Off. I was happy to belay him though as the ledge was palatial and the belay bomber. We rapped into the belay ledge as the climb is essentially a single pitch at the top of a very blank looking wall – the lower wall pitch has been climbed at head pointed E8. Tony was really steady on the lead, getting the gear in and working out the moves. I was happy belaying, eating nuts & cereal bars and taking snaps of the seriously impressive situation. A couple of hours later he topped out – job done.

Primal Scream

Day 2 Tony decided he would chill out so I teamed up with Chris McDaid for Chieftain – a two pitch VS. the were a couple of moves on both pitches that were a bit rude that early in the morning ! The Fair Head VS did not disappoint. At lunch Tony was trying to talk us into Equinox – the classic 2 pitch E2 of the crag – like cenotaph corner but much bigger. He seemed to have intimate knowledge of the route, strange seen as this was his first visit to Fair Head. After some further questioning it turned out he had soloed it while we were on Chieftain – Nutter !

After Lunch we opted for some single pitch stuff in the sun and headed round to the prow which looks really like kilt rock on Skye. Chris was really keen that I did the fence, a VS that he had done the previous day with Iain Millar. I soon found out the art of sandbagging is not dead as I struggled up the HARD VS ! – Really good route though ! I Seconded Jim Hall up The Black Thief (VS – strangely not a sandbag) to finish off the day.

Tony had got the psyche watching Kev Power on Primal Scream and had persuaded Lesley Ann to rap into the hanging belay on The Wall of Prey to have a go on Above And Beyond (E6 6b). This takes a leftward line directly above the big overhangs. We sat around watching while Tony did the business – Smooth and in complete control all the time. Again, another really impressive on sight lead, very good to watch. Some team work in getting the pitch stripped and Tony & Lesley Ann back down got us to the Chinese just in the nick of time. (Thanks Kev for the assistance & lend of the rope) Turns out this was the 7th ascent – not bad for a chill out day.

Mr Stone setting off on Above & Beyond - Lesley Ann on the belay shared with Wall of Prey.

Day 3 and after faffing about I decided not to bother climbing and took photos of Jim, Chris & Lesley Ann on Hells Kitchen. I also pondered on my approach to climbs at Fair Head. Warming up on the VSs doesn’t really do your head any good as I think the difference between VS and E2 is not as big here as it is on other crags. Next year I’ll be treating it like a mountain crag – no warm-up routes, just stretch, strap it on and get in amongst the routes you really like the look of. Equinox here we come …

Chris McDaid about to start the spicy bit of Hells Kitchen

Friday, 23 May 2008

Am Buachaille

Saturday 17th May 2008

I’ve got quite into my sea stack climbing recently. They seem to offer something different to your traditional mountain route, in that there are so many variables to think about. The actual climbing is just a small part of what’s involved in the day. Having now done The Old Man of Stoer & The Old Man of Hoy (& the Souter !) the choice was either The Maiden or Am Buachaille.

I went for Am Buachaille because you don’t need a boat to climb it ! It is however located 4.5 miles from the road in the far North West of Scotland, near to the amazing Sandwood bay. We had chosen to climb it via the route Atlantic Wall (E1 5b **) – this decision was made on the basis that the original route up the stack wasn’t very good and I’d seen a couple of pictures of the route on the net and liked the look of it.

Tides are a bit of a problem on this stack – you can setup a Tyrolean traverse to cross the 8 meter channel at low tide, however the platform that you setup the traverse is underwater at high tide. Effectively this means a window of 4 hours to get across to the stack, climb it, descend it and get back. The first ascentionists of our route got stuck on the stack overnight due to rough seas and missing the tide ! (I did have a head torch with me …..)

The stack and tidal access platforms

The tide was going out as we arrived and we got to work setting up the Tyrolean – I swam across to setup the rope, allowing us to cross in dry clothes. Stretchy climbing ropes aren’t the best for Tyroleans close to the sea, so I did get a wet chalk bag swiftly followed by a wet arse. (Must buy a static rope some time !)

I found the first pitch quite tough – mainly because I don’t like going sideways and the rope drag turned out to be quite bad by the time I pulled onto the belay ledge. Lesley Ann managed to second it well. The second pitch was a overhanging flake crack – nice and exposed but fun climbing with big holds all the way up. Any time I had lost faffing on the first pitch was made up by flying up this.

Pitch One - plenty of sideways action !

The third pitch looked really nice – a straight crack running right up the wall. This was brilliant to climb, gear when you wanted it, nice holds but increasing feeling of exposure behind you the higher you got. I’ve since found out the guide says to climb a thin crack behind the belay block and traverse left into the main crack. However the main crack direct is the obvious line and more in keeping with the other pitches.

Pitch 3 - about to hit the sun on the summit

Sitting on the summit I could see the tide was coming in fast and I willed Lesley Ann on to second the pitch as fast as she could. Abbing off was complicated by the very strong northerly wind and we did our best to do the old Indian rope trick of the second down passing the rope down to the first man – this worked OK until the lob the ropes off the end bit where they got stuck round a flake After some faffing I took a hanging belay off a couple of cams, Lesley Ann came down and freed the rope and went to a ledge below my belay. I then went to the ground on rope stretch.

By this time the Tyrolean we had set up to get across was about 1 foot above sea level. I stripped to my kecks and swam for it, we ferried all the stuff across in dry bags / dropped the tyrolean and Lesley Ann swam for it too. We flung all the stuff in the sacks and pegged it over the tidal boulder field to the decent gully.

Brilliant day out – what sea stacks are all about – adventure by the bucket load!

Saturday, 19 April 2008


Wednesday 16th & Friday 18th April 2008

Was out bouldering at Craigmaddie near Glasgow on Wednesday and ice climbing on the Ben on Friday – total contrast in climbing “genres”. Scotland in spring is great. (when it’s doesn’t rain and there are no midgies)

Chockstoner @ Craigmaddie (Font 5+) - Cheers Davie for the photo !

Climbed Thomson’s Route (IV,4) and Two Step Corner (V,5) with Stuart MacFarlane. The Ben was is in great nick and we practically had it to ourselves – very quite for a Friday. I was quite happy to call it a day after Thomson’s but Stuart was insistent on another route so we abbed from a snow bollard over the cornice in number 3 gully. The wind that had blasted us on Thomson’s route had died down and Two Step turned out to be a great choice of route with fun climbing on all of the pitches.

The north face of Ben Nevis in all it's spring glory !

Abseiling the cornice ...

Postie on Two Step

Monday, 14 April 2008

Wester Ross Trip

11th - 13th April 2008

I’ve not been out climbing much due to these wee fellows below however I have managed to pull on plastic quite a bit in the new bouldering cave….. (Right that’s the request for pup & bouldering cave photos sorted !)

If anyone needs to see a man about a dug – I’m yer man !

The bouldering cave - 35 & 10 Degree wall plus a wee vertical section.

The trip to Fontainebleau had whetted my appetite for some rock climbing so some nice Gneiss in the North West fitted the bill perfectly. A day at Jetty Crag got us back in the rock climbing frame of mind. Anthrax Flake being the star route of the day, a great VS flake climb.

Day two at Inverianvie Crag in Gruinard Bay got us plenty of mileage under our belts up to about E2, with quite possibly the best descent route off a crag ever. I had hoped to get on Diabaig pillar on the Sunday but rain stopped play and forced us into a wee cafĂ© at Gairloch. We headed round to Gruinard again as it looked brighter up that way – our optimism paid off and we had a few hours bagging the routes that were missed the day before.

Some stunning views in the North West just now ....

Early season stitching - the final roof of “The Parting Glass” (E1,5b)

Shades make the ideal eye wear for the cave descent
Seggie Quote “how come I keep hitting my head in here “

The jugs on “Temporary Beauty” (VS 5a) were that nice I thought I’d nip up a second time before the long drive home.

Cheers to Tom, Chris, Graeme, Lesley-Ann, Craig, Theresa & Ian for the first of what will hopefully be many successful trips this summer.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Turning Bleau ?

21st – 24th March 2008

I should change the name of this blog to as I seem to be in the perfect position to fill other peoples trips when someone drops out. The destination this time was Fontainebleau for a spot of bouldering with John & Mike. We also met up with John’s friend Sarah and her mate Richard out there. (and also some other folk that various people knew !)

The whole friction in the cold thing seems to work and we had good fun trying loads of problems of varying hardness until our fingers couldn’t take it anymore. Some of the “easy” slabs are desperate and very crimpy.

The highlight of the trip was “sending”* Moondance, A highball Font 6a classic apparently. * Note I’m only just getting to grips with this bouldering lingo and may have been seen doing a “sit start” with a tea cosy on my head in my anasnazzy velcros!

Font Jugs ....

Mike on a nice (chipped!) Flake at Rocher Fin

John about to Moondance ....

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

StuckIn Corner

Sunday 16th March 2008

Climbed Fallout Corner (VI,7) with Andy Clark on Sunday. We had hoped to go higher up the corrie and climb Head Hunter or The Deviant but the ever deepening slab on the approach to these climbs made us think twice.

Fallout is another one of these amazing lines that I’ve always wanted to climb but had been put off by the grade. Got to say I didn’t find it much harder than Savage Slit. If it is techy 7 it’s certainly the easiest 7 I’ve climbed.

Don’t know what is going on with the weather forecast but this was another day that was forecast to be cold and clear but ended up being not so cold and snowing ?

Belaying Andy was amusing as he managed to bend his pick on the first pitch and then get his axe stuck on the second. I got my boot stuck across Savage Slit for a good 10 minutes on Thursday so I was very careful to gently hook the sticky placement to avoid a repeat.

Andy pulling through the crux roof on the first pitch.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Savage S*it

Thursday 13th March 2008

* All I can say about the b(l)og title is it wisnae me for a change!

Decided to heads to the Gorms with Davie Crawford. We had been pondering some Southern Highlands action but we reckoned that there was probably too much snow and a good possibility that the insulated turf was not frozen.

I was keen on climbing Savage Slit (V,6), in fact I’ve been keen on climbing Savage Slit since the first time I walked into Coire an Lochan and my jaw dropped at the line. I’ve never won the weekend race to the foot of the route though. However we were first into the corrie on Thursday, despite our very leisurely start.

The Crux

I led the two main pitches which were great! Absorbing climbing that you always had to think about but never quite desperate. For being such a short route it certainly packs in some quality climbing.

Plenty of back and footing ....

Davie looking guilty

It was a good to walk out of the gorms in a nice, still, starlit evening. We managed to see a couple of spindrift tornadoes snaking round the corrie. One hit us on the walkout and it was like being in a proper full on whiteout but only for five seconds. Weird !

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

More Norwegian Ice

28th Feb - 3rd March 2008

I’ve found the crux of this midweek climbing experiment to be getting partners on days when conditions are good. So when I was offered another chance to head back to Norway I was thinking “7 potential partners with time off to go climbing”. Conditions in Rjukan were reported to be bad with a heavy thaw melting everything.

We managed to get quite a lot of climbing done given bleak outlook. Myself, Stuart Mearns, Andrew Fraser & Ian Magill spent the first day in the lower gorge where we basically threw the guide out and walked up the gorge climbing anything that looked climbable. On day 2 myself & Mearnsey climbed Trappfoss, one of the classic WI4s in the area. We didn’t really see many people on the first two days but on the third it became apparent that everyone was hiding at Krokan. Top ropes setup on practically every climb, with almost a climbing wall mentality of queuing for routes. My motivation wasn’t really there so I seconded Mearnsey up a couple of routes and we called it a day early.

Ian Magill and Andrew Fraser on Host (WI4)

The Gorge and Vemork Bridge. Thanks to Andrew for the photo.
(If you look closely you can see me coming up Host)

Thanks to Stuart, Andrew, Ian, Kev, Cam, Ced & Mark for a “cracking” trip !

Saturday, 16 February 2008

News at Ben

15th February 2008

Climbed Smiths Route (V,5) yesterday with Ally Fulton via the original line. It looked quite thin from below but was perfectly climbable. Brilliant route. After lunch we charged up Tower Scoop (III) which was a wee bit detached / hollow near the top. There isn’t that much steep ice to go at on the Ben just now. More a case of take a wander up and see whats in rather than go for a specific route. Plenty of easier stuff in condition though.

Heading up to the start of the route – the big lump of ice in the middle of the buttress

Ally on the last pitch

Rescue in Gardyloo Gully – nothing serious apparently

Thursday, 7 February 2008


6th February 2008

Could have been out climbing yesterday! Some duff information about when a female dog can and can't get there bits whipped out saw me waste the morning sitting in the vets surgery, with a pristine white Ben Lomond highlighted in the perfect blue sky taunting me through the window.

By 11am I was back home pacing up and down about the glorious weather. By 1.40 I was at the col ready to drop into the Corrie from the ridge. I was tempted to solo one of the easier routes but thought better of it when i saw the large amount of wind slab at the drop in point (pre-placed excuse). A healthy dose of self preservation (More like the truth) had me going for a wander up to the trig point with all the other Hillwalkers.

Lomond Corner (IV,5) is the obvious line. Being higher than most hills in the southern highlands it’s in condition more often than people think.

The hill was hoaching, about 50% of people seemed oblivious to the fact they were on a Munro covered in snow mid winter. I got some weird stares being so over prepared by having not one but two "mad ice pick hings". This is the first bucky & trainers ascent I have witnessed in winter - mon the troops.

Ben & Loch Lomond

I suspect if any of the troops had come to harm yesterday they would have been described on the news as “Climbers”.

Norwegian Ice

26th January - 2nd February 2008

Rjukan is buried in snow just now so that kind of skuppered our plans to do loads of multi-pitch water ice. The easier ramp sections between the steeper bits of ice were the problem – too much snow! This also meant that most of the easier routes at Rjukan are also under about 2 foot of snow – bit of a shame for the beginner in our group who had been promised loads of low angled water ice. After we figured this out we spent the rest of the week hooking up the steeper single pitch stuff.....

My favourite route of the week – Not in the guide but I think about WI/M 5 ?

Davie on Gausaspokelse (WI4)

Frozen Lakes

Thanks to Jim, Davie, Tom, Lesley Ann & Claire for a great trip.

Davie’s pictures are here.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Major Navigation

24th January 2008

I had decided to go “over the back” in the Cairngorms with Jamie Bankhead to climb Route Major on Carn Etchachan. I’m very wary of going over here in winter as getting back safely involves some hardcore navigation if a Cairngorm hooly sets in. The forecast was for generally good visibility but poor in the occasional shower. We could handle that.

The first challenge was to actually get to the car park. A shower had dumped about 4 inches of snow on the road and although my car managed the technical crux (sugar bowl corner) it ran out of steam on the red point crux of the final hump into the car park. I abandoned it by the side of the road and we made it up in Jamie’s heavier car.

It was still showery as we got out of the car (full scale blizzard) and walked into Coire an t’Sneachda. We climbed up the goat track and into Coire Domhain where we reasoned that the shower should go off to leave us with a brilliant blue sky day. After dropping down into the Loch A’an basin we hid out of the shower under the Shelterstone to get geared up for the climb. Finding the climb in the gloom was OK as it starts up an obvious ramp which appeared briefly through a gap in the shower.

Jamie approaching the climb with Loch A’an behind

We made steady progress on the climb, I cursed my rucksack on the chimney pitch and very nearly dropped my leashless tool, managing the crux moves with the clipper bolt in my teeth. (I’ve got a set of lanyards now !) There is a lot of easier climbing on the route but time has to be spent finding the correct line, which was fun in all the spindrift.

One of the easier “Routefinding” pitches

We topped out around dark and it became apparent that the shower was not going off and that we were faced with the hardcore navigation that I always try to avoid. Having been in this situation before I know just how quickly you can get disorientated and end up having an epic.

To give us some confidence that our navigation was correct I enlisted the help of Uncle Sam and several billion pounds worth of satellite in medium earth orbit. In the end we went with the GPS and were checking things were OK on the map & compass. This is the first time I have used a GPS in anger and I have to say I was very impressed – trying to pace out distance while breaking trail in 100mph + winds just does not work. I was really shocked at how long it took us to walk 1KM in these conditions and if I had been “pacing” would have doglegged far too early.

After several dog legs and about 3KM of walking (and some crawling) to get out round various crags the moment of truth came when we arrived back at the top of the Goat Track. The decent back down was interesting as in zero visibility you are never quite sure if you are in the right place or if you are heading off down a grade VII climb. Thankfully the top of the goat track was wind scoured although a fair bit of slab was building up lower down. After dropping down a bit we were more confident we had pulled it off – Uncle Sam told me the rescue box was 300meters away and what little rock architecture we could see seemed to fit.

Once we were down into Coire an t’Sneachda our spirits lifted somewhat and it was a case of getting the head down and keeping on walking. I broke through two snow bridges and went waist deep in the stream on the way out. Fortunately I knew we were fairly close to the car by this point so wasn’t too upset. The winds were still really strong here but I’d been out in conditions like this before so was fully expecting the two of us to be thrown about like rag dolls. We contoured round and eventually picked up one of the ski runs. I had expected a gentle stroll down the piste chatting to Jamie about the weather, instead we had to break trail, down hill in chest deep snow. I’m 6’2 and Jamie is 6’4 so you can imagine how deep it was. The slope was too shallow to bum slide so we resorted to rolling sideways over the drifts and arrived and the bottom of the piste abit dizzy but having used less energy that walking.

Jamie’s car had to be dug out and once we had got it going we had to ram several snowdrifts that were forming as huge sleeping policemen on the way down the ski road (Helmets still on for safety!). One was just too big and the car managed to get beached on the top of it. Some more digging got us out of that one and down to my car which also had to be dug out. We nearly cried when we saw the snowgates shut with us on the inside, they wern't locked though... We made it down to Tescos carpark fully geared up by 10pm, just in time to see the chippy pull it’s shutters down !

At least someone was enjoying the weather

Notes :
1 – This doesn’t count as an epic as we always knew where we were and were down before 12 !
2 – Disclaimer - Don’t go wandering around on the Cairngorm plateau with just a GPS, if it packs up you still need to know where you are on the map and compass.
3 – In retrospect I would have turned back before setting off up the climb but had been getting fed up of failed days and was too keen to get up something.
4 – We could have navigated off with a map and compass but it would have taken much longer. The windspeeds were around 100mph when we were coming off, later they were over 150mph so was quite grateful for the speed of the GPS.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Grim Day

Sunday 20th January 2008

Andy Clark, Stuart McFarlane & Myself had a fairly grim day on the Ben on Sunday. We had decided on Stringfellow (VI,6) which probably wasn’t the best choice given that we were climbing as a 3 with ruckies on and it’s quite a long route. We made really fast time into the CIC, helped by the new path. We were also up to the route fairly quickly and managed to find it OK in the gloom. Stuart led the first pitch which looked like a fairly easy gully. Andy and I waited and waited – for about 2 hours ! until Stuart was safe.

Andy about an hour into the belay, still looking warm.

We both seconded the pitch together and it became apparent why the Postie had taken so long. Horrible slabby rock devoid of cracks, or turf or ice and not much in the way of protection.

The first (and only!) pitch

At the belay the next pitch looked harder but following a good crack - a very nice looking pitch. The weather had really started to crap out by this point. It was now 1pm and we still had 5 pitches of grade VI climbing and another couple of pitches of III up tower ridge. Our collective wisdom said “bail” or finish in the dark. We didn’t mind finishing up tower ridge in the dark but the crux is on pitch 4 and we didn’t even know if we would get to that pitch. We bailed and got soaked on the walk out – it was chucking it down with rain from the CIC hut down. On the way down the road we pondered on whether the first pitch should really have ice in it – we reckoned it probably should !

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Cracking Day

Wednesday 16th January 2008

Days like yesterday are the reason I’ve decided to take some time off to winter climb. I can’t stand being stuck in an office when it’s blue skies and a crisp cold day outside. You just know that someone will be off having an adventure in a corrie somewhere in the highlands. (Sorry to anyone reading this stuck in an office.) Well yesterday it was Davie Crawford and myself having the adventure.

This was another plan C day. Plan A was something lower down in the southern highlands. An unexpected temperature of 6 degrees at the rendezvous point and the forecast of a sunny day ruled that one out. Plan B was Pas de Deux on Beinn an Dothaidh. The turf was frozen here but the steeper mixed routes are quite bare on the rocky sections. If we had done it, it would have had to have been a “photos looking down” day. Having the pre-placed excuse of being tired from being out the day before, we opted for Clonus - an obvious corner line. Clonus gets IV in the guide but no technical grade so we didn’t quite know what we were getting into – sometimes these are the best days out though.

The first pitch was deceptive – it looked like a easy romp but there was actually a tricky wee icy groove to be overcome. Pitch 2 again looked easy but was quite hard. Not thin it that there was nothing for your feet but awkward in that you were traversing rightwards into a slot and out again. Not much for the tools on quite steep ground. I thought this pitch was definitely technical 6 and the climb was much harder than West Chimney that I did a couple of weeks ago. I’d give it southern highlands IV,6 **. I’m sure it’s easier with more ice – the corrie is however fairly icy, probably the biggest build-up I’ve seen in 12 years of climbing there.

The awkward slot on pitch 2

Davie did the final easier pitch to top out into some st
unning views as the sun was beginning to set. – A cracking day, Colin Proir would have wet his pants!

The view over Loch Tulla - The 2009 Calendar will be available to purchase shortly.

Route 2

Tuesday 15th January 2008

Beinn an Dothaidh today with Lio Moscardini and Davie Crawford. This was to be Lio’s second ever winter route so nothing too hard. We had hoped to try Femme Fatale on the north buttress. Unfortunately it was very black so we didn’t bother. Spring Fever also wasn’t in very good nick despite me trying to climb it. I gave up after getting soaked under a water fall and trying to get my axes into squelchy turf.

We sacked north buttress completely and moved over (and about 50 meters higher) to the west buttress. Here the turf was bomber and we raced up the route Stairway to Heaven. Quite a nice grade III, with an interesting traverse ! Descent back down to the corrie was hampered by very strong winds and crusty snow. (If anyone finds a map of Beinn an Dothaidh it’s Davie’s)

Davie charging up the top pitch

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses .....

Friday 11th January 2008

Well I've had all sorts of excuses for not climbing this week, my first week as a temporary full time climber. Excuses from partners, man flu, sore ankles, fitting bathrooms (2 different partners) etc etc. Then I've had weather excuses, hurricane force winds, trees down, power lines down etc etc ..

On Friday I ran out of excuses and headed out with Ian Dempster to the Coe. We really had no excuse for not getting anything done, or did we ?

We had a target route on the Buachaille which was quite low lying and not often in condition - perfect choice for something at the end of a week of fairly wild weather. Unfortunately the forecasted hard frost and 500 meter freezing level didn't happen. We had walked in as far as the water slide before deciding that it was sub-tropical and there was no way our chosen route would be frozen, so we about turned and hoofed it into Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Crest route was the new target route and we waded up deep snow to the start of the route. The first pitch was mine as Ian had done the route before and he thought i should lead the crux (Pitch 3 - perhaps trying to get over the roof that he and many others had dodged by the "variation"). I accepted the challenge and started up the first pitch. Being easier and ledgyer (is that a word?) it had collected a fair amount of snow. A huge amount of digging brought me up to to the harder final moves onto the belay ledge. I thought this looked good, some proper mixed climbing with torques and other trickery and was enjoying it right up to the point where i had to lock off on my left arm and dig out the foot and a half of snow that covered the ledge. My strength was beginning to fade but i managed to dig out a decent hook for the right and some turf to batter my left tool into. I hauled over onto the ledge, setup a belay and brought Ian up.

Ian took some gear for the next pitch, not all of it because he knew where he was going, and set off.

Ian Sets off on pitch 2

I thought about the wee roof and how i had found the first wee bit quite hard because off all the digging, i though stuff it, I'll give it ago anyway - should be steeper with less snow. I took some photos. Ian shouted down some scouse expletives about it being hard. I got cold, and did 20 arm raises each side. I took some more photos and took in the view that was coming in and out of the clouds.

I can see the pub from 'ere and Jimmy Savile's house .
Now then, now then, who's about to miss the belay on pitch 2 of Crest Route

I got even colder and did 20 leg raises on each side. I though stuff the roof on pitch 3 - I'll be taking the easy option and getting up the pitch as fast as possible. About 2 hours after setting off, Ian shouted down the news that he had Run out of gear and couldn't see the belay. Ian can't remember most routes he has been on so this came as no surprise.

We decided what to do. I had a look at the clock and the fact that it was now 3pm meant it was bail time. One hour till dark even once Ian had got a belay i still had to second the 2nd pitch and we both had to climb pitches 3 (crux) and 4. The decision to bail was easy and I lowered Ian off some in-situ gear and he stripped the pitch. Double 60meter ropes meant we were back on the ground by 3.30 and back at the van by 4.30, just as it was getting properly dark.

I can't remember the last time I bailed out of a Winter route, I also can't remember the last time I was benighted so in retrospect I think we made the right decision. Crest route will still be there, and so will I, albeit a bit earlier than we were this time.

With all this non climbing and working the West Stirlingshire International Bouldering & Drytooling Arena is coming along nicely though.....

Framing for the 35 and 10 Degree wall.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Hallelujah - Winter has arrived!

Sunday 6th January 2008

Erick Baillot and myself decided to skip Sunday school and offer our thanks to the Gods of winter climbing at Church Door Buttress on Bidean.

Let there be light .... and there was light
Let there be hoar ..... and there was hoar
Let there be frozen turf ..... and there was frozen turf

Let there be snowed up rock ...............

Erick Below the first pitch of West Chimney

Church door buttress is in cracking nick just now - we had chosen to climb West Chimney a three star V,6. Erick had decided back in the car that "I 'vill be le mole" which meant that i would get the first pitch. I suspected at the time that this was because if he couldn't find the tunnel on pitch 2 the alternative is VI,6. I didn't get any good photos of the first 3 pitches as spindrift was pouring down the route on pitch one, Erick was in the tunnel and up the second pitch before i had a chance to get my camera out, and pitch 3 wanders all over the place.

Erick leading pitch 4 (Raeburn's Chimney) on West Chimney

We both agreed that the route was quite soft for the grade of V,6 but great fun. I'd recommend it as someones first V,6. Hopefully I'll get out again this week before everything is Back in Black.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Big Dump !

I had arranged to go climbing with Andy Clark today but when i got to his house we decided against it. The roads were in fairly bad shape and we reckoned there was a fair possibility that either Drumochter or the Cairngorm ski road would be shut so we put our plans on hold.

I've since found out through the electronic grapevine that the ski-road was shut, the Braemar road is shut and also an accident has closed the road through Crianlarach. Probably a good call after all.

To make up for it i took the dogs up Dunmore in the Campsies, I had hoped to get a view of the southern highlands but it was too cloudy. You can usually see Ben/ Loch Lomond, the Crianlarach hills and bits of the Arrochar Alps from here.

Yeti Spotted in the Campsies